VIF Director Mr Ajit Doval welcomed the gathering with an appetising statement that changing situations require new paradigms and increasing conflicts can be resolved through laws. Mr Sorabjee began his talk by outlining the grand vision of the founding fathers of the constitution to eradicate poverty, hunger and exploitation and render justice to all, which are enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution. He defined governance as the qualitative assumptions about protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens enshrined in the constitution.
Mr Sorabjee identified the functioning of the parliament as the first problem area. The primary duty of parliamentarians is to legislate. The inordinate delays in passing the bills (Lokpal Bill, Vishaka Case, etc) in the parliament; avoidable pandemonium during parliamentary sessions and the stalling of the parliamentary proceeding by Members of Parliament compound the problem of poor governance. He rejected the idea of non-payment to MP's for those hours lost as unworkable. He suggested that a reform is needed wherein a minimum literary qualification if not an educational qualification can be made mandatory for parliamentarians.
Apart from the functioning of the parliament, he also found the present electoral system defective. Many of the members enter parliament with minority votes; have criminal records and through misuse and abuse of electoral laws get themselves elected. A person who has committed acts of moral turpitude and sentenced to five or more years of imprisonment by a court of law which framed the charges, not just FIR or Police Charge sheet, has to be disqualified. Although amendment to the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution prevents defection, the power of disqualification is vested with the Speaker of the House. In many cases, the Speakers lack the requisite impartiality in dealing defections – a worst form of political immorality and betrayal of people's trust. To address the problem of defection, either the power of disqualification should be vested with the Election Commission or a three member Independent Body.
Judicial malfunction manifests in inaccessibility to justice to a large majority of needy and poor, though Supreme Court fulfils its responsibility to a great extent unlike the lower courts. This failure of rule of law leads to Mafia system of instant justice through extra-legal means. Consequently, the roots of our system are affected. Mr Sorabjee called for a crusade to eradicate this menace. Besides, he expounded a three tier approach to the problem. The government should be prompt in filling vacancies of the judges with independent, able judges and lower courts ought to be provided with necessary infrastructure. Secondly, judges have to develop a work ethic and finally the legal fraternity must co-ordinate to bring out the necessary changes. More over, corrupt judges have also become common place. But the collegium system has worked unsatisfactorily. Therefore, a National Judicial Commission can be formed to scrutinise and appoint judges without compromising judicial independence to enforce accountability.
Absence of good governance – poor sanitation, starvation, and drought - reflects the failure of executive. Non-implementation leads to bad-governance and non-governance, as a result, judicial intervention takes place. Respect for Rule of Law is essential for good governance and any subversion of it causes non-governance. As the Directive Principles of State Policy warrants that good governance is unfeasible when vast inequalities and disparity of wealth exists. Further, the continued absence of social justice leads to alienation, anger and frustration, which in turn feeds extremism and Naxalism.
Besides, ethical norms and observances are essential for good governance. Integrity, accountability and leadership among the executives is a pre-requisite for good governance. Ethical norms and practices cannot exist in a society where there is rampant corruption. As a consequence of corruption, a large majority of people are denied their socio-economic rights. Therefore, the corrupt should be treated as the violators of human rights and socially ostracised. In addition, their ill-gotten wealth should be confiscated so as to disallow them from enjoying the fruits of their corruption as suggested by the Constitutional Commission.
The root cause of lack of good governance according to Mr Sorabjee is lack of moral leadership. Ethical and moral values are compromised in pursuit of material wealth. Therefore, we should endeavour to allow truth, goodness and beauty to prevail in public life so as to restore values and implement them in all walks of life. It is our duty and responsibility to realise the goals and vision of the Constitution of India enshrined in the Preamble.